‘Rewiring,’ but not retiring: Ian Sherman prepares for life after EY

Board of Trade chair and community leader sees opportunities for more advisory and consulting work with new venture
Ian Sherman
Photo by Lindsey Gibeau/Lindsey Gibeau Photography

It’s fair to say Ian Sherman was a late bloomer. But once he figured out what he wanted to do and what he was good at, he wasted no time rising to the top, both as a tax expert at EY and as a dedicated and tireless community leader in Ottawa.

Later this month, the 62-year-old will be stepping away from his positions as tax partner and tax practice market leader in the Ottawa office of professional service firm EY. The chartered professional accountant has reached the mandatory age for EY partners to retire. He plans to continue working as a consultant with EY.

“I see myself as ‘rewiring’ as opposed to retiring,” says Sherman, who was named Ottawa Businessperson of the Year in 2009. “I’m certainly not retiring but I am going to slow down.”

He plans to continue working as a consultant and to remain engaged with “a manageable number of businesses” through board and strategic advisory roles for both private and public companies as well as through his new company, Relationship Capital.

“I plan to continue to help nurture, mentor and develop our next generation of business leaders,” says Sherman.

Launching pad

During his nearly 32-year career with EY, Sherman has worked closely with major public companies that generate billions of dollars in revenues and with large private corporations in the real estate, technology and retail sectors.

He’s also been a tax adviser to a former prime minister and a former governor general.

“It’s been a privilege and an honour,” says Sherman of the strong client relationships that he’s forged.

“I haven’t always had to be strapped to my desk, in the early days with pencil and paper or in the later days at a computer, drafting memos. A lot of what I’ve done in the last 10 to 12 years is nurturing relationships. I take enormous pleasure, and with gratitude, in the human dimension side of business.

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing so many people in the community and I’m proud of the fact that I know a lot of the C-suite in Ottawa, many of whom are now also friends,” says Sherman. 

Not bad for a guy who battled extreme shyness as a kid. It was his wife, Randi, who helped to get him out of his shell. They met in their youth at Camp B’nai Brith, a well-known Jewish sleepaway camp.

“She was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says the born-and-raised Ottawa resident. “None of what I’ve been able to do both at EY and in the community would have been possible without Randi being that rock. None of it.”

Ian Sherman and family
From left, Jonathan Sherman, Randi Sherman, Ian Sherman, Adam Sherman and Matthew Sherman.

Sherman was elected as a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 2006 in recognition of his professional achievements and contributions. In 2013, Sherman received the CPA Canada Award for Excellence in Income Tax in recognition of outstanding service to the profession and the Canadian tax community.

He is the kind of business leader who’s highly sought-after by organizations looking for his kind of talent, energy and enthusiasm. His decision to join the finance committee of the Soloway JCC in the early ’90s was somewhat of a launching pad. 

“I just needed to gain the self-confidence to be able to go out there in the community and feel comfortable in my own skin,” said Sherman.

Five things to know about Ian Sherman:

Sherman currently chairs the Ottawa Board of Trade and the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation. In mid-June, he takes over from good friend Michael Polowin as board chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. 

Sherman helped to guide the Ottawa Board of Trade through its ambitious amalgamation of several local chambers of commerce into a single organization in 2018.

“I’m so proud of that,” says the University of Ottawa alumnus. “It was the right thing to do for the city.”

He created the Ottawa Sports Celebrity Dinner many years ago and was also founder of what’s grown into the Ferguslea Sens Soirée.

Additionally, Sherman is a stalwart supporter of the Hellenic Community’s Gold Plate Dinner for the Heart Institute, with EY serving as auditor of its exciting prize draw. The event was started by Steve Ramphos, who founded District Realty with Sherman’s late uncle, Lionel Shinder.

Sherman strikes the perfect balance between confidence and humility. He knows when to openly express pride, and it’s when he’s speaking about organizations he’s attached himself to, including Ernst & Young. The partnership’s rebranded EY letters, he says, have become a badge of honour that he will carry with him.

“That’s what I’m most proud about, professionally, and the relationship advantage it has provided to be present and give back to our community.”